IRELAND COACH JOE Schmidt issued a positive outlook on Brian O’Driscoll’s fitness today as he counts down the training sessions to the November 9 clash with Samoa.
O’Driscoll been forced out of action with a calf injury in recent weeks having only played 73 minutes since the second Lions Test during the summer.
Despite concerns, images emerging from Ireland’s training base at Carton House today show O’Driscoll involved fully in training and Schmidt sounded confident that the centre would win his 126th cap with or without match fitness.
“The one thing I’d say about Brian is that he’s training really well,” Schmidt said.
“He’s looking sharp, he’s pretty comfortable on the field at the moment. I’ve no doubt that a steely mind can get over fatigued lungs. At this stage, I’d be reasonably comfortable with him starting against Samoa if that’s what we think is the best option.”
Paul O’Connell is not so far along in his own recovery from a calf tear and will hope to join Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien in a return to full training before Schmidt imposes a cut-off on Tuesday.
“We get small enough windows as a group – it would be pretty hard to include someone post Tuesday, because we only have one session on Thursday and a very light captain’s run on Friday.
“I think Tuesday would probably be the earliest for [O'Connell] which would be cutting it fine, but he is very much abreast with what we’re doing. He has been out on the pitch for all the sessions. He’s the sort of guy that does his homework very well.
“I’ll be guided by the medical staff and there is quiet optimism that Tuesday wont’ be unrealistic for [O'Connell] if he can get out on the pitch for Monday and start doing some straight line submaximal stuff.”
With O’Connell less than assured of making Schmidt’s first game in charge, the Kiwi moved to downplay the importance of naming a new captain, hinting that he may issue the honour on a game-by-game basis on each team-sheet.
The guys showing leadership are mixed across the board. So we’re pretty comfortable with where we are at the moment and probably the earliest we would name a captain would be part of the team announcement; maybe Tuesday, maybe Thursday.”